Elastic Windows: A Hierarchical Multiple Window World-Wide Web Browser

Eser Kandogan, Ben Shneiderman

Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory

The World-Wide Web (WWW) is becoming an invaluable source for the information needs of many users. However, current browsers can still be improved.

Our browsing interface called Elastic Windows offers multiple hierarchical windows and efficient multiple window operations. It provides a flexible organization where users can quickly organize, filter, and restructure the pages as they reformulate their goals. Let's take a look.

Here, I am at the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory (HCIL's) main page.

When I click on a link, the new page is opened on the right nested in the current page.

Selecting another link replaces the page for the last selected link.

Let's look at the HCIL's research project description page.

As I am going to spend some time on the research projects, I am going to resize that page, which shrinks the contents of the HCIL main page. This allows me to focus on the research projects while still keeping context.

First, I would like to have an overview of the current research projects. So, I select all six current project links and open them with just a single operation. These pages are (will be) opened side by side within their parents page.

Let me resize this window a little bit.

To see more of the project pages I can resize them bidirectionally. The remaining projects are also visible though they are scaled down.

OK. Let's scroll down on this page to see the the participants of the Elastic Windows project. Let me open them as well. Here we are: my page and Ben's page, here.

As you can see, at this moment I have four levels of pages: HCIL main page, research projects page, and project pages and two participants' pages of the Elastic Windows project. Keeping multiple levels gives me more flexibility in accessing pages at different levels.

The Elastic Windows browser is flexible in terms of page organization. It is possible to restructure the pages by efficient multiple window copy and move operations. For example, I can take these three pages of the Elastic Windows pages and move them above the project description pages.

I can also focus on the Elastic Windows project page by maximizing all three pages with a single operation.

OK. Let's go back. Another feature of the Elastic Windows browser is the hierarchicons. The browser lets you create a hierarchicon for a group of pages which is basically an active image of these pages. By clicking on the hierarchicon I can browse through a number of pages quickly.

In this demonstration, we have focused on three features of Elastic Windows browser:

Our earlier experiment with 12 users showed benefits of these strategies for personal role management. We will be conducting usability studies to text and refine this web browser version.